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Why some people are more attractive than others

Researchers believe they have solved a mystery that has puzzled evolutionary scientists for years ... if 'good' genes spread through the population, why are individuals so different?

The so-called 'lek paradox', that sexually-selecting species like humans should have much less individuality than is the case, has been seized upon by creationists as an argument that Darwin's theories are fundamentally flawed.

The problem with current evolutionary theory is that if females select the most attractive mates, the genes responsible for attractive features should spread quickly through a population, resulting in males becoming equally attractive, to the point where sexual selection could no longer take place.

However, new research by Professor Marion Petrie and Dr Gilbert Roberts at Newcastle University, England, suggests that sexual selection can in fact cause greater genetic diversity by a mechanism not previously understood.

Professor Petrie theorised that since genetic mutations can occur anywhere in the genome, some will affect the 'DNA repair kit' possessed by all cells. As a result, some individuals have less efficient repair kits, resulting in greater variation in their DNA as damage does unrepaired.

Although unrepaired DNA is generally harmful - causing tissue to degenerate or develop cancers - it is useful in some parts of the genome, such as those parts resposible for disease defence where variation can help in the resistance to disease. It has long been known that greater variation of DNA in the disease defending regions makes it more likely that an individual can resist attacks by bacteria and viruses.

Using a computer model to map the spread of genes in a population, Professor Petrie demonstrated that the tendency towards reduction in genetic diversity caused by sexual selection is outweighed by the maintenance in greater genetic diversity generated by mutations affecting DNA repair.

The research is publish
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Contact: Marion Petrie
marion.petrie@ncl.ac.uk
1-912-225-126
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
27-Mar-2007


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